A Love Story

Mr. Anderson, a teacher at E.V. High School, was spotted behind the school in the little fenced-in nook. He was pacing, uncomfortably, based on his corresponding, jerking movements and he kept bringing his pen to his lips as if he was smoking a cigarette. His other hand was gesturing dramatically, as if he was trying to explain some difficult idea and the recipient wasn't understanding. When he pulled the pen from his mouth you could see his lips on one side of his mouth opening and closing...like in an attempt to form words, but no one else was with him.

What was especially weird is that I had just seen Mr. Anderson a few minutes before supervising the gym. He seemed completely fine...smiling and laughing and chatting with some of the students. Something was obviously wrong now and I was genuinely concerned. Something must have happened to make him so upset...so frustrated...so seemingly crazy. I approached him calling his name, but he gave no indication that he heard me. As I got closer I noticed little things about him were a bit off, more than just the random displays of frustration. There was something about the skin at the spot where the face meets the neck... it didn't seem to match. The edges of his face looked reddish, kind of raw, his hair wasn't laying flat like usual, and his clothes didn't quite fit with his pant legs a little too long and his dress shirt a little too loose across the shoulders. Something was very wrong.

I retreated back behind the wall watching Mr. Anderson, kind of glad he hadn't heard me or noticed me. I could just barely make out this words, but I tried with all my energies to focus on what he was saying. "Not right...it's not right!" He shook his head rapidly from side to side and took an extended pull from his pen. "No! No! No!" he yelled aggressively to no one in particular. His voice wasn't normal. Nothing about him was normal. Chills ran through my body, goosebumps formed on my arms. "He" wasn't Mr. Anderson at all. This person was an impostor. Awareness flooded over me like a broken dam...the rapid physical movements, the pacing, the faux smoking....it was Mr. Verlei, but with Mr. Anderson's face!

I instantly thought the worst. I ran back toward the gym to check on Mr. Anderson, the real Mr. Anderson. I couldn't find him. His desk, his lunch, and his water bottle were all still in the same spot where he usually sat for supervision...but he wasn't there.

I ran to Verlei's classroom hoping I was wrong. I peeked inside through the window but didn't see anything amiss. I turned to run but didn't know where to go. My insides were turning over and over. Something wasn't right, but I didn't know how how to prove it. I slouched to the floor against the wall and put my head down between my legs. I was dizzy from the adrenaline and unable to catch my breath. A noise from overhead, the exposed piping, caught my attention. It reminded me of Verlei's secret bathroom, the one that can only be reached from his classroom...the one he's referred to as his sanctuary.

With shaking hands I opened his class and walked toward the closed bathroom. Just as I was about to turn the handle, I noticed the blood pooling underneath, spreading out beyond the enclosure. I didn't want to open the door but I knew I had to. I had to find out what happened.

I made myself grab the handle and pull. I was instantly inundated with a scene so gruesome I would never have otherwise imagined it. A body, Mr. Anderson's presumably, was propped up sitting on the toilet. His face and scalp were missing. His head was a bloody, mushy mess. He was left with only his boxers and undershirt. I fell back, nauseous at the scene in front of me. I tried scooting myself backward but my feet, which were now saturated in Mr. Anderson's blood, kept slipping. I was crying, barely coherent as glimpses of the bathroom came into focus. Verlei had obviously spent time in there.

It was a shrine. There were pictures of Mr. Anderson from all kinds of angles...Mr. Anderson teaching, Mr. Anderson in staff meetings, Mr. Anderson getting in and out of his car, Mr. Anderson animated, tired, happy, sad, and even deep in thought. There were shots of him driving...all over town, shots of him in his backyard with his family, shots of him inside his house cooking dinner, shots of him in his bed sleeping. It was like wallpaper, Mr. Anderson style wallpaper, and it covered the entire bathroom.

I began to grasp the situation. It kind of, almost, made sense. Mr. Verlei was trying to BE Mr. Anderson. That was why he was wearing the Mr. Anderson mask and clothes. When I initially saw him outside, he was frustrated because it wasn't working out as planned. I saw him during the moments when he was realizing he couldn't just become Mr. Anderson by taking his clothes, and hair, and face.

I called the cops, but it was a difficult conversation. They couldn't believe what I was telling them. I was reduced to repeating, "he's wearing a Mr. Anderson mask...he's wearing a Mr. Anderson mask" until I couldn't speak and I was only crying.

The cops did eventually show up. They found Mr. Verlei in the same exact spot I left him. Word is he was a real mess when they arrived. He was curled up in the fetal position, still wearing Mr. Anderson. He wouldn't respond to questioning. He was crying as the police carried him away and quoted as saying, "I can't believe I killed him...I can't believe I killed my best friend...I should have listened to my wife...she told me I couldn't have it both ways."

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